Review by Cleopatra Aelia alias Medusa Gladiatrix of
Paperback 448 pages
Release Date 18th March 2008
The Spartan priestess Lysandra of a (fictitious) cult of Athene ends up after being shipwrecked in a ludus of women gladiators only. Being trained at her temple in sword fighting she nonetheless has to get used to the harsh training at the ludus and that she has now the status of a slave. As it is usual if people and esp. women are cramped together in a place like a gladiator school she makes friends but also enemies. With the support of the lanista she becomes a renowned gladiatrix loved by the crowd. In the governor of Asia Minor she finds a powerful supporter.
Russell Whitfield wrote an enthralling novel with a good insight of Roman history. Also some of his descriptions of the bouts are very good, mentioning moves what I have done in my training as well or describing the same problems I face when fighting with the large scutum. On the other hand he had a certain largesee when it comes to the gladiator types. I know he had done this on purpose I nonetheless think the story would have worked as well when having had the women to fight in authentic gear and pairings.
The story though had some interesting twists which made reading more interesting than to have a plot where you foresee how it will go, e.g. the meeting of Lysandra with the governor Frontinus ends in a totally different way than expected. The end remains open so this books calls for a sequel which I will surely like to read as well.
If you can accept a great largesse in authenticity in a historic novel you surely will enjoy this book, if you prefer a historic novel to be more accurate you might have some problems with this book because not only the gladiator types are not authentic, also the priesthood of the main character is purely fiction.